Friday, 14 June 2013

Cruising the Lycian Way

The idea of a cruise has always struck fear and loathing into my heart.


Those monstrous skyscraper boats, pushing themselves into the harbor to pollute and expel hundreds of sunburned and hungover tourist to buy painted shells and t-shirts with crude phrases printed upon them, or worse, crude phrases across the derrière on a pair of sweatpants, before whisking the crowds off to the next port of call. I know it's terrible of my karma, but I get a little schadenfreude tingles when I hear of a cruise ship with a blown engine drifting around the ocean, handing out lettuce leaves and onion sandwiches to angry passengers who await rescue from the filth and a voucher for their next cruise free. The whole cruise experience is anti-culture. I understand that some people don't want an authentic local experience, but COME ON.

But a sailboat? Around the Mediterranean? With lots of hiking and archeological sites to explore? Suddenly, I look upon a cruise with a whole new attitude.


Blue Cruises abound on the Lycian coast. Choosing a company can be tricky as some of them have a reputation for not delivering on promises. There's enough of the companies competing for your attention for you to be choosey, and also get some practice with your bargaining chops as well- everyplace I asked was willing to drop their prices 15-25% when I pressured them into it.


A typical 4-day cruise on the Lycian is surprisingly affordable. I chose correctly and ended up on the well-appointed 86 foot long Alaturka 81 with just 5 other passengers and a crew of 3. It was a good group: a couple of Americans, a Quebecois, and two Dubliners. Much to my horror, we were the only ones who had booked in advance and with doing research- everyone else had just signed up with a tour company once they got to Istanbul. Alas, it seems like I got the better price because of it. The month of May is still considered early in the season so my timing worked out perfectly.


The only real shame is that none of your beverages are included. You can't even get a sip of water without paying for it. While they don't gouge too badly on the alcohol, it still adds up quickly. A couple on the boat who were especially enthusiastic drinkers and ended up paying more in their booze tab than they did for the cruise, which is really the only way I could see the ship making a profit. The chef makes three really decent meals a day- grilled fish and kebaps, fresh tomato salads, mezze, breads, homemade stuffed grape leaves and other turkish specialties, with lots of fresh fruit available for breakfast and desert. We did not go hungry.

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We sailed past the Sunken City, an old Roman town that had slipped off the hillside and into the sea after an earthquake shook it from its moorings. A look into the crystal blue water revealed houses and staircases and streets neatly placed in the shallows, as if they were built there.

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And now, I rave. It's an excellent way to see the coastline. With a little dingy, the deckhand would shuttle us to shore to hike and see the sights, and then ferry us back when we were done.

We climbed up to Simena Castle in Kaleköy, built by the Knights of St John. It's surrounded by a tiny, roadless village.

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There was no short supply of sarcophagi scattered along the Lycian way.


The tombs were long since raided and they all stand empty. Some were even in the harbor, poking out like cairns.

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After a refreshing swim to explore a cavernous pirate cave, we docked in Pirate Cove for the night.

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We thought the party was over when the coast guard showed up, but it was just routine checks. Yarrrr.


Despite being in the middle of nowhere, with no town or roads to speak of, the Captain said that a little boat would come around from time to time and pick up people from the docked boats to bring to a dance club on shore. How could an offer like that be resisted? I think the situation was exactly what everyone's collective mothers would have warned them of: getting in a boat with two surly Turks, who brought you to a bar in the woods where no one could hear you scream over the loud thump of Australian techno. The bar was full of other Blue-Cruisers, mostly Kiwis and Aussies who were far drunker than we were, many of whom made it a career to behave quite badly and tried to throw random strangers in the water. It was fun, and there much dancing into the wee hours to a garbage-loving DJ went on before getting a surly Turk to bring us back to the ship.

I declared it a successful adventure.

PS, if anyone cares, I booked the Cruise though Alaturka, who also owned the lovely sailboat we were on. I am not unhappy with my decision.

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